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Dresden, The Florence of Germany

Story and Photos by David Greitzer

They call it cobblestone syndrome. Tourists who aren’t familiar with walking on cobblestones hobble in the most peculiar way. Their gait is erratic. The right knee may slump inward giving them the appearance of being crippled. Cobblestone syndrome occurs after walking at least 10,000 steps through an ancient city like Dresden whose cobblestone-lined streets tend to mock foreigners with the motto of King Augustus: “Strong, proud, tough.”

Fountain in Zwinger Square
Fountain in Zwinger Square

Augustus, king in the Baroque era, had quite an influence. His name still reverberates in almost all walks of daily life. His self-commissioned statues adorn virtually every rebuilt structure here. A typical Augustus statue is of a heavily-bearded crowned man atop a galloping horse in mid-prance. One gets the sense that Augustus “the Strong” enjoyed making life more difficult than it needed to be. Everything is overbuilt. Doors here are harder to open. Stairs are steep. The historic bridge has 26 pillars and columns where four would have sufficed.

But it is a beautiful city. It is difficult to imagine that it was reduced to rubble in the waning days of WWII. It was only since the reunification in 1989 that Dresden was rebuilt (almost) to its former splendor. If one had only one city in Germany to visit then Dresden should be that city. The restaurants all make the best German food. The beer is cheaper than water. Everyone is friendly to tourists.

The historic buildings, art, culture, fashion all exhibit the stereotypical ideal that is Germany. And, isn’t that what you’d want if you had only a few days and a desire to fulfill your postcard-like dream of Germany?

In a single day I saw a spontaneous launching of four hot air balloons, a table full of Italians whooping it up for a family reunion, a woman eating two softball-sized potato dumplings, an innocent child picking dandelions in the park, and a kind camera store employee coming to my rescue with a replacement for my battery charger. The battery charger I brought from home sizzled then died when plugged into the 220-volt socket. Don’t mock me. I had a converter. Lesson learned. Don’t buy cheap converters at the airport.

Dresden is a great destination. Its proximity to Berlin, less than a 2 1/2 – hour drive, makes it something every traveler to Germany should include in their itinerary. There are even buses to and fro at the cost of €6.90 which offers free Wi-Fi and toilets.

 

Open-air museum at Kizhi, Russia

If you voyage along Russia’s Volga River, you’ll surely stop on the island of Kizhi to view its  open-air museum, founded in 1951. The most prominent display is Kizhi Pogost: two wooden churches and a bell tower that comprise a UNESCO World Heritage site. The elegant Transfiguration Cathedral, crowned with 22 cupolas, is a masterpiece.

You’ll also see farmhouses, barns, mills, and a sauna, all constructed in traditional Russian fashion. Inside are domestic artifacts: tools, dishes, utensils, samovars, handmade lace, and furniture.

 

 

Umbria, Italy

Umbria is the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with other countries; hence it is arguably the most Italian place it Italy. It includes Perugia (which you may know for its famous Perugina Baci classic chocolates) and Assisi (which you may know for St. Francis), as well as gorgeous landscapes and excellent food and wine. We recently enjoyed a week there, photographing in Orvieto and nearby areas.

Stay tuned for a photo-journal…

The streets of Bali

No wonder Bali is such a popular holiday spot—it has something for everyone. Here are some of our favorite photos, from street food to wood (and skull!) carvers, traditional dancers to young lovers, and spectacular street processions to haunting masks.

To see even more of Bali, including ancient temples, contemporary art, and traditional batik, check out our See-Before-You-Go photo journal of Bali.

The Marta Festival

Every year since pagan times, the town of Marta in Umbria, Italy, has held the Barabbata festival, celebrating the cycle of seasons and the fertility of land and sea. It’s a wonderful spectacle that the men and boys of the village participate in, hauling elaborate floats past thousands of spectators and up a long hill to culminate in blessings at the local church and a picnic with plenty of pork sandwiches and wine. Women aren’t allowed to walk in the parade, so they line the street and lean out from second story windows, tossing colorful flower petals. We had a wonderful time photographing the festival!

Street food in Bali

We were warned against eating street food in Bali, but couldn’t resist, so we tried despite concerns about getting “Bali belly.” Fortunately, we had no problems — and the food was wonderful! The warm meatball soup we got at this little green cart was particularly good.

Tasty meals at Bedulu in Bali

Our tiny resort in Bedulu was beautiful, and the family restaurant served us fresh, tasty meals. The care that went into preparing even a simple fruit plate was typically Balinese, and continued to delight us as we visited various parts of the island.

Semondu restaurant in Sri Lanka

The name of the restaurant “Semondu” is derived from the word  Simoundou, an ancient name for Sri Lanka given by Ptolomy, the famous Roman mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet. Semondu’s interior has a modern fusion theme, in keeping with its cuisine, and incorporates “colonial charm” with modern ambiance. We loved with the glass floor, which changed colors across the spectrum. (Notice that the floor is blue in one of the photos and green in another.)

King Coconut in Sri Lanka

One of the first orders of business when we reached Sri Lanka was having a taste of coconut. Here, a friendly street vendor uses his machete to open a coconut, then shows us how to use a slice of the of the outside shell as a spoon to scoop out the tasty “meat” inside. Both the cool coconut water and the mild-tasting, jelly-like meat are especially refreshing on a hot, humid day. The bright yellow King Coconuts — the ones we tried — are reputed to be the tastiest.

Travel Features and Photos from Bay Area Travel Writers

Now available! Travel Features and Photos: California’s National Parks,  Monuments, Trails, Seashores and Historic Sites launched in December, 2015. Beautifully photographed and expertly written by members of BATW, this latest anthology explores and celebrates national parks and monuments in the Golden State — a tribute to the National Park Service on its 100th anniversary in 2016.

Download your free PDF here or buy the 4-color printed book.